Correspondent in Moscow
The symbolic dimension of the Ukrainian strike on Friday against the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol could take on a new dimension with the announcement by the Ukrainians of the death of its leader, Admiral Viktor Sokolov. This information has not been confirmed by the Russian authorities. This would be the highest ranking general officer killed since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Six Russian generals died in combat, according to a figure provided by MP Andrei Goroulev, himself former general officer.
According to kyiv, the strike which occurred on Friday in Sevastopol took place during a “meeting of leaders of the Russian navy”, in which Admiral Sokolov participated. Aged 61, born in Moldova, he was appointed head of the Black Sea Fleet last September. Western sources say he personally decided on strikes on civilian sites in Ukraine, making him liable to prosecution for war crimes.
A graduate of the Frunze Higher Naval School, Admiral Sokolov began his career on torpedo and minesweeper ships before occupying senior positions in the Pacific Fleet where he spent fifteen years. In 2013, he was appointed Deputy Commander of the Northern Fleet. It was in this capacity that he led a combat campaign in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Syria, where a detachment of ships from the Northern Fleet was engaged, including the only Russian aircraft carrier, the “Admiral Kouznetsov”, victim of several damages.
On August 10, 2022, by decree of the Russian Defense Minister, he was appointed Acting Commander of the Black Sea Fleet, succeeding Admiral Igor Osipov. The following September, he was appointed commander of this fleet and received his Admiral's stars last March. The Ukrainian attack which led to his death, along with that of his closest collaborators, requires a high level of intelligence and deals a serious psychological blow to the Russian defenders of the annexed peninsula, constantly targeted by drone attacks and missiles. A military shipyard, very close to the headquarters building in Sevastopol, was hit ten days ago and twenty-four people were injured. It is unlikely that such attacks will radically change the military situation in Crimea, which the Ukrainians have promised to reconquer. Strong lines of defense were established by the Russians. But the psychological dimension of the death of Admiral Sokolov would be considerable, for the morale of the army as well as for the population of the peninsula who live constantly scrutinizing threats coming from the sky.
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